It was a, "tres bon stunt ... I wouldn't have missed it for worlds."

That isn't what many would expect from a World War I soldier, especially audiences raised on the Lions-led-by-Donkeys Blackadder mythology. Yet that's how Australian Sergeant FF Clausen and a great number of the British Army felt in the late summer of 1918.

Kiwis, Diggers, Canadians and Indians, along with our French Poilu and American Doughboy allies would, in words of British Corporal James Murrell, prove "we are made of the right stuff".


For New Zealanders, the final 100 days of World War I would see five of the Great War's 11 Victoria Crosses won in an advance of some 90 kilometres. This was no longer static trench warfare.

The final 100 days of World War I started on August 8, 1918, with Sergeant Clausen's tres bon stunt — the Battle of Amiens. This Allied victory was overseen by Field Marshall Haig and planned by the fourth Army head, Sir Henry Rawlinson.

Here was a general who had blundered at the Somme two years earlier, but at Amiens would deploy surprise and innovative combined-arms tactics involving tanks, close air support, pinpoint accurate artillery, cavalry and infantry.

Spearheaded by Canada's superb General Sir Arthur Currie and Australia's General Sir John Monash, Amiens would see Monash knighted in the field, the first such honour in over two centuries.

As Amiens slowed, Haig decided to attack northwards between the rivers Somme and Scarpe. Enter the New Zealand Division that was the tip of General Sir Julian Byng's Third Army spear.

The Battle of Bapaume, between August 21 and September 2, is a forgotten New Zealand victory despite Glyn Harper noting its significant firsts: "It was the first time the New Zealand Division carried out an attack in France without a preliminary artillery barrage. It was the first time New Zealand troops were supplied from the air. It was the first time that the New Zealand Division attacked with a large number of tanks in support, although this proved to be rather a mixed blessing at times.

"The German counterattack on August 31 was the first time the New Zealanders had been on the receiving end of a tank attack. The Battle of Bapaume is also the only time in New Zealand's military history that three Victoria Crosses have been awarded during the one military action."

While Bapaume was captured on August 29, the victory was overshadowed by Australia's finest achievement of the war. Tired and under-strength Diggers would take the defensive strong point of Mont St Quentin, forcing the Germans back to the Hindenburg Line.


Shortly after Bapaume, the New Zealand Division added a fourth Victoria Cross as it fought through Havrincourt and Gouzeaucourt Woods.

After rest, the New Zealanders went back into action on September 29 and by October 1, had taken the village of La Vacquerie, secured the crossing of the Scheldt Canal at Crèvecoeur-sur-l'Escaut and won a fifth Victoria Cross.

By late October, the New Zealand Division had fought its way to the medieval fortress town of Le Quesnoy. It was here, on November 4, that the division would pull off our Mont St Quentin. Using scaling ladders, one battalion would seize the town's ramparts while another would take one of the town's gates entering Le Quesnoy.

For the loss of 135 men, the division had captured the town almost intact along with its German garrison and without a single civilian casualty. It was arguably the finest feat of arms in New Zealand's military history. By the end of the day, the division had advanced almost 10 kilometres capturing 2000 prisoners and 60 guns.

The next day, November 5, would see the Mormal Forest taken in the final New Zealand infantry action of the Great War, although the artillery would support a British division until November 9.

Two days later on the final morning of World War I, November 11, 1918, the Canadians liberated the Belgium city of Mons where, 1542 days earlier, the heavily outnumbered "Old Contemptibles" of the British Expeditionary Force had delayed the invading Germans.

What the Allies and individual soldiers achieved in the final 100 days of World War I is remarkable and deserves better than to remain forgotten victories. For New Zealanders, names like Le Quesnoy, Bapaume and La Vacquerie deserve a place in our popular consciousness every bit as much as Gallipoli, Somme and Passchendaele.

David Broome is a Wellington-based member of the Western Front Association.